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July 16, 2024

Korah Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion


Numbers 16:1 – 18:32
This Week’s Torah Portion | Jun 18 – Jun 24, 2023- 29 Sivan – 5 Tamus, 5783

In A Nutshell

The portion begins with the story of Dathan and Abiram, and 250 of the presidents of the congregation who rebelled against Moses and Aaron with what seemed like a just argument: Since the entire nation is holy, Moses and Aaron should have the same status as the rest of the people. The reply they received was that although they are all equal, Moses and Aaron are the leaders that can be in contact with the Creator. Following the mutiny, the ground swallowed the 250 presidents of the congregation, as well as Korah and his company, and the people suffered from a plague until Moses asked the Creator to end it.

The end of the portion debates the question of leadership in the nation. A test was held between all the staffs (rods) of all the leaders, and the only one that blossomed was Aaron’s staff, which signaled his unequivocal leadership.


Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman

We can interpret the explanation of the Torah (Pentateuch) on two levels—the level of this world and the level of the hidden, spiritual world. On the level of our world, the story of Korah is very relevant even today.

For thousands of years, our world has been developing through our egos. 3,800 years ago we lived in what is now known as Ancient Babylon. This is when Abraham—the quality of Hesed (mercy)—rose, as well as the priests that followed him, who are also from the quality of BinaHassadim.

Abraham discovered that the whole world must develop and achieve a state of unity and connection, and shared his revelation with the Babylonians. While many followed him, they were only a handful compared to the majority that rejected his ideas. Abraham had to flee from Babylon, chased by Nimrod, the king of Babylon.

Abraham established a method for correcting human nature. Today we call that method, “the wisdom of Kabbalah,” whose purpose is to elevate man from the depth of egoism to the level of bestowal and love.

This ascent is in fact the goal of our development—to rise from the level of this world to the level of the spiritual world. Spirituality is bestowal and the love of others, by which we acquire eternity and wholeness. This is the meaning of the text in this portion, as well as in The Book of Zohar, which talks about freedom from the angel of death.

According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, initially everyone in Babylon was united as one nation speaking the same language. But then the ego “plague” broke out and people started hating each other, eventually moving away from one another. Because the Babylonians didn’t take upon themselves Abraham’s method of correction (but rather that of Nimrod), humanity dispersed throughout the globe.

Kabbalah explains that from the moment when people chose between the methods, it became necessary to reunite people. That unity will come because we are compelled to reach it. Had we corrected ourselves then, we would have achieved unity back in Babylon, and would have reached the purpose of Creation—being “as one man with one heart”; we would have achieved the revelation of Godliness and would have concluded the correction. But since the Babylonians chose a different path, we are now being compelled to follow through with the correction process.

We went down to Egypt and came out of it, ascending in spirituality to the degree of the FirstTemple, followed by the SecondTemple. We went through destructions, exiles, redemptions, and today we are at the end of the last exile—beginning to rise toward the last, complete redemption.

Today we are in a very similar situation to the one that formed in Babylon. The difference is that today we have nowhere to disperse, since we have already covered the globe. While there can be many “Nimrods” today, they cannot say anything because we have already recognized the negativity in us; we are already aware that our egos are destroying human society. Reality shows that unless we unite we will disappear from the face of the earth. The worst-case scenario is that we will finish ourselves off, or that ecology and the rest of Nature will finish us off since we’re living opposite to Nature, which is God.

In GematriaHateva (Nature) is Elokim (God). We must achieve balance with Nature, and this is achieved by uniting “as one man with one heart.” Unity pertains not only to the small number of people that fled from Babylon, stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, received the Torah, and became a nation. Rather, it pertains to everyone.

Jews must be “a light for the nations,” explaining to them Abraham’s method, by which we all unite, as it is written in the Torah, “They shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” and “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples,” and also, “And all the nations shall flow unto Him.”

We are faced with a huge, crucial challenge: to finally achieve the purpose of creation. We will succeed in it only through unity between all people.

That unity can take place after great pains, which the wisdom of Kabbalah and prophets have prophesied concerning the days of the Messiah, but we can also take the method of Kabbalah, which is intended to draw the light that reforms.

Kabbalists warn us that unless we use the wisdom of Kabbalah, a third and even a fourth world war will break out, that only a handful will survive them, and they will still have to implement the purpose of creation. Hence, we have no choice but to do it. We can do it in a favorable manner, which is short, pleasant, and easy, through The Book of Zohar, the writings of the ARI (Rav Isaac Luria), and the writings of Baal HaSulam (Rav Yehuda Ashlag), using them to unite us through the light that will affect us. Kabbalah is called “the interior of the Torah,” “the true Torah (teaching/instruction),” due to the light within it. For this reason, today we must explain to everyone the need to disclose and utilize this method.

The story of Korah is a perfect example of our aforementioned words. Korah came from the tribe of Levy. Dathan, Abiram, and 250 representatives from the entire nation, all the tribes, apparently objected to the unity. They rejected the hierarchy, but there was no other choice. There must be a leader, Moses, connecting the Creator to the priests, followed by his priest brother, Aaron, the right line, the quality of mercy that they taught to the people. The ones who actualized the entire work besides the priests were the Levites, followed by the rest of the tribes, which were arranged according to the structure of the common soul.

The Creator created one soul, one desire. The people of Israel is arranged by that structure, and the rest of humanity should be connected around it. When people suddenly rise and say, “No! We want a different order; we don’t want to be so tightly connected,” it goes against the purpose of creation, against unity itself.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is the rule that induces the connection between us. It is the great Klal (“rule” but also “collective”) of the Torah. It is a Klal that is a common Kli (vessel) that we build and in which the light—the Creator—appears. We have no other means but unity between us, to be “as one man with one heart,” in mutual guarantee, connection, just as when we received the Torah. This is how we, the creatures, achieve the revelation of the Creator.

This is why there is nothing worse than what Korah did. It is called, “a dispute not for the sake of the Creator,” which is unlike other disputes, such as the one between the house of Shammai and the house of Hillel, which are “disputes for the sake of the Creator,” where matters are discussed and scrutinized.

There is right, and there is left. Each time we acquire a little more spirituality, a bigger ego—left line—appears in us. When we acquire a little more spirituality—the right line, Aaron—Dinim (judgments) reappear. This is how we rise, as though walking on two legs, climbing from one step to the next, as though on a ladder.

The right and left lines appear alternately, one by one. The left line gives the substance, and the right line corrects it into having the intention to bestow. An egoistic desire on the one hand, and the right line that comes and corrects it to being in order bestow upon others on the other hand.

This is how we advance, and this is why the wisdom of Kabbalah encourages the increase of the desire, hence its name, “the wisdom of Kabbalah (reception).” It teaches us how to receive everything—all the light, to achieve the goal in its entirety. Kabbalah is intended specifically for the most egoistic of people, but who also know how to correct their egos.

This is Abraham’s method, which differs from all the other methods that originated in Babylon. Abraham taught other nations, too, such as the children of the mistresses that he had, which he sent eastward. He taught them the opposite method, since if you don’t correct the ego using the wisdom of Kabbalah—by drawing the light that reforms—it’s best to keep the ego in check and not let it grow.

For that purpose, he gave them methods, religions, and faiths that encourage decreasing desires and cravings and treating others kindly, diminishing the will to receive as much as possible. He did that because if a person doesn’t know how to correct a desire, it is best to have a small ego rather than a large one, thus causing less harm to oneself and to others.

But when we use the wisdom of Kabbalah, we use the biggest ego. And when it grows we’re even happier because “He who is greater than his friend, his inclination is greater than him,” except that that inclination is corrected.

This is why Korah wanted to divide, to tear the connection. What he really wanted was to break that ladder. He wanted for the people of Israel to not be connected, that we would not be under that hierarchy, according to the proper structure of the tribes.

The tribes are YodHeyVavHey. When multiplying the four letters by the three lines included in each of them, you get the twelve tribes. Korah wanted to break the structure, but this is impossible because without that structure it’s impossible to reach the goal. This is why his sin is so grave, and it is called “a dispute not for the sake of the Creator,” not in the direction of the progress.

The argument of Korah and his company was seemingly right. All they asked for was equality. They didn’t say they did not want to unite, at least not openly. They only asked why Moses and Aaron were of higher status, and for proof that they were superior to the rest of the people.

It is impossible to break the correction process midway. You don’t show a fool a job half done. Korah was right in saying that we will all reach equality, “as one man with one heart,” one desire. However, this is the end of the process, which will happen at the end of correction, not in the middle, in the stage of the desert.

The desert is an intermediary stage that we go through in order to acquire the quality of Bina, the intention to bestow in order to bestow. Only afterwards comes the entrance to the land of Israel, where we turn the will to receive into complete bestowal—an intention to receive in order to bestow. In the desert, a person is still only conquering one’s own ego, not letting it burst out in order to receive for itself and against others. It is a degree called Hafetz Hesed (desiring mercy).

On these degrees it is impossible to do what Korah says. On the one hand he’s right, but on other hand it is the wrong timing. There will come a time when that desire is fulfilled, but it isn’t now. The desires and claims of people, whether good or bad, become fully satisfied only at the end of correction.

The solution is in the Mateh (staff/rod)Mateh means that we know where to go and how to get there. We receive a sign that we cannot advance on the way we are going, unless by using the light of faith, following Aaron’s staff and Moses’ staff.

How Patronizing Eventually Becomes Positive

The Torah explains our internality, our qualities, our thoughts, emotions, and our desires. The struggles we have are not only between us, but also within us. We want to advance egoistically but we know that it’s wrong and we have to overcome it and follow a path of bestowal and love of others. After all, it’s written so, and this is the purpose and the quality of the Creator—bestowal and love—and we are opposite from the quality of the Creator.

These calculations always work within us and toss us from side to side. Each of us has an inner Pharaoh, an inner Korah, Haman, Moses, and Aaron. We are “small worlds,” made of all the forces. As we advance along the spiritual path, these forces grow and become contradicting, and we find ourselves amidst mighty inner battles.

This is why people are correct, when viewed from their own subjective perspective. These are Nature’s forces, which the Creator created, and there’s a good reason why a person thinks one way or the other. After all, all these forces—from worst to best—exist in Nature.

The question is how a person uses them. We mustn’t erase anything that exists within us. In the end we correct even the Korah within us. A person cuts out the beast within, burns it, and spills the rest of its blood.

For now, when we perform such physical actions, we have no idea what internal actions they represent. At most, we only “freeze” the desire, but that too is a correction, so as to use it later.

Why Korah Sees It as Patronizing

There is always a struggle between the forces within us. We put ourselves on the scales and must make sure that one force doesn’t override the other, that the right line isn’t much lower than the left. We must constantly keep the right higher than the left. It is called “walking on the right line.” The commandment is to always be on the right, although the left line will grow accordingly and will balance us so we will still advance on the right.

That sensation of internal struggle is a very good feeling. Each time, we feel how much we are immersed in these changes. It’s like a wheel, where the top moves forward and the bottom appears to move backwards, but the wheel is constantly moving forward.

The Correction of Being “Swallowed” in the Ground

“The earth” is the general will to receive, the force that we currently cannot use correctly, with the aim to bestow. Its correction is similar to the one we make with a dead body—we bury it.

A “deceased” desire is one that we cannot use with the aim to bestow, and which appeared in us with the aim to receive. That aim to receive is Korah. The desire itself is neither good nor bad; what matters is the intention—whether I use this desire for myself or for the sake of others. The Torah instructs us how to accurately examine our intention, whether it’s for ourselves or for others, and we must turn the intention to receive for ourselves to the benefit of others, to bestow.

A person either “buries” the intention to receive in the ground, or burns it. That is, either the ground swallows it or it is offered as a burnt offering (Hebrew: Korban, from the word Karov—near) in order to draw closer. When we correct that aim from reception to bestowal, we bring ourselves closer to the Creator, hence the name Korban.

These corrections have nothing to do with flesh and blood people or such tragic events as being swallowed in the ground, burned, or dying by a plague, although these things do occur in our world. Rather, these descriptions relate to corrections that occur within us. This is why it is said that man is a small world.

We need to check and find Korah, Abiram, Dathan, and the 250 presidents within us, what it means to be equal or unequal, and what is the purpose of creation. This is why we need to sort out our desires and our intentions.

Also, we should seek and find what are Aaron’s staff, Moses’ staff, and what their blossoming means within us—that along the way a person opens the vessel for reception of the upper light, and thus advances.

And Korah Took

Korah went by way of dispute, which is removing and repelling above and below. And one who wishes to repel the correction of the world is lost from all the worlds. A dispute is removing and repelling of the peace. And one who disagrees with peace disagrees with His Holy Name, since His Holy Name is called Peace.”

Zohar for All, Korah, item 5

Shalom (peace) refers to Shlemut (wholeness), a state we achieve when the left and right lines complement one another. Our nature and the nature of the Creator equalize and reach connection and Dvekut (adhesion). This is the desirable outcome that yields peace, so we will never be opposite, detached, or distanced, but rather so connected that it will be impossible to tell us apart.

We must achieve Dvekut with Godliness, when He and we become one. As unrealistic as it may seem, it is the goal, and we must move toward it. The more we advance by ourselves, the more we will spare ourselves suffering.

The Reason for the Doubts along the Spiritual Path

The reason why we are constantly filled with questions and uncertainties is that we must develop. When we encounter serious doubts, we might come to a state where we ask for the ground to “open up and swallow us whole.” We may seem like the operators, but it’s actually the Creator who operates. We only observe the events happening before us, as though a movie is playing within us.

Gradually, we develop an inner vision that detects qualities such as Moses, Aaron, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, tribes, staff, and the earth within us. We sort out these elements in our qualities and see the situation as a picture within us. This illuminates how we advance while examining the network of connections between the elements.

Within that inner network of qualities—the 613 egoistic desires that aim to receive—we redirect our desires so they work in order to bestow. This is called “observing the 613 Mitzvot (commandments).” The light that comes and corrects the intention to receive into an intention to bestow is called “performing a Mitzva (correction/good deed).”

As we perform the Mitzvot, we discover our inner world, and in that world we see how we connect to others. This is how we discover our souls and learn how to fulfill them. These are the scrutinies, struggles, and connections that we undergo, and the fulfillments we receive. It is how we discover the work of the Creator. This is the real work of God that we perform.

In this way we come to a state where we understand the purpose of creation, the correction of creation, and how to carry it out. In the end we come to a state where we understand everything. It is called “And they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” We obtain a complete Kli (vessel) that is called “a house,” “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” It is the house of all our desires; they are all there, and in all of them we actually feel Godliness in our entire soul.

Read the Original Portion Here »

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